COVID-19: Dental industry responds

Cases of a pneumonia-like illness were first reported on Dec. 31 and COVID-19 has since spread to virtually every dental market. (Image: ToKa74/Shutterstock)
TextJeremy Booth

LEIPZIG, Germany: The dental industry is a mosaic of companies of various scales and the COVID-19 global health crisis is currently dictating their activities. So how are these companies responding to the pandemic and what kinds of information are they sharing with their customers around the world?

The World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a pneumonia-like illness in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Dec. 31. Many dental companies made record profits last year, but the unidentified virus that was detected in the final hours of 2019 has gone on to make 2020 a very different year for dentistry. As providers of essential health care supplies, dental companies have worked to maintain their supply chains and have put customers ahead of profits by focusing on providing essential information and services to dental practitioners in this time of crisis.

Collaborating with health authorities to defeat COVID-19

Test kits that can detect SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in as little as 15 minutes are being distributed by Henry Schein. The company announced to the press at the beginning of April that it would serve as the exclusive distributor in the U.S. of a second point-of-care rapid test kit, after an earlier announcement that the company would distribute the Standard Q COVID-19 IgM/IgG rapid test, which is also administered with a pinprick at the point of care without instrumentation and delivers a result within 15 minutes.

“The COVID-19 rapid test kits are a part of Henry Schein’s response to the outbreak. These tests are important because they are fast and can be deployed where they are needed to help return our citizens to the workforce,” commented Chairman and CEO Stanley M. Bergman.

The company is collaborating with the White House’s COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver personal protection equipment and other supplies to SARS-CoV-2 testing sites.

EMS too is working with government health officials. The company said in a letter to its customers that its AIRFLOW and PIEZON technologies do not pose any additional risk in the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and that it is collaborating with WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure the availability of the technologies.

Delivering essential dental supplies and informing the dental team

Most dental companies have considerably reduced production and other business capacities in the face of the outbreak, but remain committed to delivering essential supplies and equipment.

In a letter to its customers, Dentsply Sirona said that most employees not involved in manufacturing were working remotely and that the company was maintaining its supply chain. “We have a diverse global manufacturing footprint, adequate inventory and strong logistics capabilities. Dentsply Sirona is committed to delivering you the right product on a timely basis,” CEO Donald M. Casey emphasized.

The team from Amann Girrbach said on its website that it was doing everything in its power to ensure the permanent supply of necessary materials and aids, stating: “At present, our delivery readiness is still 100% provided [that] there are no transport restrictions.” Online customer support is continuing at Amann Girrbach, and on-site support from its technicians is continuing as far as regulations allow. “Furthermore, we are already working on preparing you as well as possible for the time after the crisis via online training,” the team said, adding that the company will actively promote training and further education through virtual platforms in the absence of dental trade fairs and events.

Also focusing on digital platforms is the Straumann Group. The company has created the #TogetherStrong information portal for dental professionals, where customers can access online educational resources, business insights, recovery plans and guidance on COVID-19 tailored to dental teams.

Planmeca informed its customers that it would soon launch its new online training concept #timetolearn. The virtual platform will consist of training videos and both live and on-demand webinars. In the same online bulletin, Heikki Kyöstilä, founder and president of Planmeca, summarized the wider message of well-wishing and support that the dental industry has offered to its partners and its customers, as they face hardship and health concerns owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We hope everyone stays safe in this time of distress and continues to take care of their colleagues, family and friends,” Kyöstilä concluded.